When was the last time you visited a shopping store to buy something matching your taste? You must have thought such an experience would not have been possible at an online store. When you are at a retail store buying clothes, store representative shows you all the great collections one by one. Within a minute from your expressions, he/she understands your taste and narrows down his/her search to find for you something that suits your needs best. With advices and compliments, the store representative encourages you to make the purchase creating a win-win situation.
This was not possible on online stores until now. Today personalization is very new in e-commerce. Amazon was one of the initial pioneers in this domain, while a majority of other ecommerce businesses are still following suit. Indian origin expert, Saurabh Nangia (alumnus of UIUC & IIT-Guwahati) had steered a similar project to take personalization to new levels while he was at Amazon.
Saurabh’s intense hard work and intelligently made calculations came right in line with expectations as his new tool brought an appreciable difference to the whole user experience and conversion rate. At the success of developing an excellent personalization solution, Saurabh had understood that the tool could provide ample business opportunities, especially in emerging markets. He convinced his friend Rahul Singh to embark on a journey of adventure and entrepreneurship with him.
This cloud based personalization platform creates real time suggestions based on customer’s browsing and shopping habits along with the insights from the profiles of similar users and comparable taste. These suggestions help customers find similar items from the catalogue, new releases, what others are buying and popular combinations of products.
Today TargetingMantra is providing a number of business solutions to various e-commerce websites that includes Similarities, Recommendation Widgets and Targeting Tools, everything from personalization to customization to analytics.
1. What inspired you to come up with this idea?
With the rate at which amount of data available online was multiplying, I identified the need for something that could curate this data for users. Currently, there is over 3ZB (1021 bytes) data created online every year. Therefore a good personalization and targeting solution is needed for any online business that wants to deliver a good customer experience. The amount of resources (both time and money) that went into building an in-house world-class personalization solution were not feasible for SMEs. This gap is further accentuated by the dearth of experts in the field of big data and personalization, across the world. There was a business opportunity out here. These companies were spending a lot on customer acquisition, but were unable to retain customers, increase customer loyalty and increase conversion rates. Therefore, it was clear that only if they could get a personalization service at a reasonable price they will gladly use the service. We therefore came up with a SaaS based personalization solution.
In this process, I also realized that people do not have access to important metrics about their business for making strategic decisions. As we were already profiling users, we therefore also started providing detailed insightful analytics to businesses.
2. How did you transform your idea into a startup venture? What were the things in your checklist before working on it full time?
There are three important things that one must look into before working on any idea full time. First is validating the feasibility of your idea. Having worked in machine learning for over 5 years, I knew that it is possible to use machine learning to personalize the web. SaaS services had already started becoming popular and people were receptive to third-party solutions. Second was validating the market. Quite often, either the market is not ready for the product or does not need it at all. We actually talked to 3-4 major e-commerce players in India and asked them if they would be interested in such a service if offered it to them. All of them came back to us with a positive response confirming that they were more than eager to try it out. The third and most important thing is to check if you are ready for the start-up. It is a tough journey, with statistics telling you more startups fail than succeed. There is no right age, time or method to know this but the day you feel ready to quit your comfortable job for your passion is the day you are ready.
3. How did you all meet and form TargetingMantra team?
Rahul and I know each other for over 7 years now, as we are family friends. We used to discuss a lot of ideas earlier but it was only with TargetingMantra and the idea behind it that convinced us to take the leap of faith and quit our jobs to pursue our venture. Our other early team members are all passionate individuals whom we met at different start-up events or online on similar forums and who shared their interest in our idea.
4. How easy or difficult is it to start a business in India?
To start a business in India is definitely no cakewalk. However it has improved a lot over the last five years. Legal, taxation and other process are not streamlined. For any manufacturing unit or a hospitality sector outlet depending on the type, dozens of licenses are required from different agencies. On the other hand, building software companies is slightly easier in India. Talent is cheaper and living expenses are lower compared to US. It is easier to validate product market fit in India market and then grow internationally after that. Receiving funding and credit is still difficult at early stages for entrepreneurs, as people and institutions are quite risk averse. Compared to US, it is also difficult to find early adopters amongst potential customers.
5. What all market industries and regions does your product target?
Being a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) product we can actually target any region including North America, Africa, Europe or Asia Pacific. We have started offering it in India as it was the home market but within the next 6 months we plan to integrate with international companies as well.
Regarding industries, personalization is required by all websites including e-commerce, media, job portals, dating etc. As content grows it will become increasingly important to curate it better for users. We have started with e-commerce but plan to extend our services to other industries soon.
6. What do you think of the future of online shopping industry in India where until few years ago people hesitated using their credit/debit cards online.
While the number of customers purchasing online is still a small fraction of the Indian population and it will take 3-4 years to reach a level that is comparable to the developed world, a few drivers will help it take there. Mobile commerce is the main driver and is growing so rapidly that many e-commerce players believe in a year or so, they will be selling more from mobile than other devices. With smart phones becoming as cheap as $100 it has suddenly opened doors for e-commerce firms which were struggling to reach the masses. Now they are actually trying to get the ‘fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’. Cash on delivery is another enabler which has tremendously increased the penetration to masses who do not necessarily believe in paying through cards online. Low credit/ debit card usage is no more the major hurdle for the sector. However I must add that offline and un-organized retail are also not going to go away in the near future as it happened in other countries. So in the future, as share of online shopping increases so will the size of the total retail pie keeping the all channels alive and kicking.
7. According to you where does online shopping industry in India stand compared to that in the developed world?
It is one of the fastest growing industries globally right now. Almost all products are available online now right from apparel, jewellery, health products to midnight meals and car accessories. The model is evolving more on the lines of China with more focus on the market place model unlike the US where each brand has its own online presence. The logistics infrastructure is continuously improving with few companies now offering same day delivery in select cities. Companies are trying to learn the global best practices.
However with heavy discounting and high customer acquisition costs hardly any company is making money. This is bleeding the sector overall and multiple sites are shutting down every month. However, opportunity lies in abundance in the Indian market and the time to take the plunge is now.
Find more about TargetingMantra. Also follow them for latest developments on your favourite social media network.
Explore What May Work Better For Your Business
What works for one business is not necessarily going to work for another. But one mistake that many small business owners make is chasing solutions that they see working for other businesses. It leads to the copycat style of business, and it’s not always going to do good. It’s easy to follow in the footsteps of those that have gone before you, but now that the business market is so crowded, following what someone else is doing is not going to get you anywhere. Being in business should be about being innovative and successful. We know that someone is always going to have done what you have done, but you should be figuring out what works for your business based on your own ideas. There are ideas such as marketing techniques that work universally, but there are some things that we’re going to discuss today. We want to show you how you can explore what may work for your business, and the areas of your business that might need a little boost at this time of the year. We’re still very much in the New Year dip in terms of sales, so hopefully this will help you boost them!
Better Business Management
Better business management is obviously going to improve the chances of success of your business. We’re not all born to manage a business, and often, the modern day entrepreneur is setting up their business without a clue what they’re doing. There are some that start out having been a manager at a company before, but still, the actual processes of running a business are all a learning curve. Some of you may not have learnt as well as others. Although you will have learnt how to make sure your business is running, when you get to the stage of hiring employees, you’ll realise you don’t know much about business management. About how to get a team of people working together to do the work that you used to do on your own. So better management techniques could be monthly meetings to check in on your employees, even if you only have one. Get them to explore share their worries and support them. Business is always going to work better if you do.
Better Data Management
Data management becomes essential to a growing business. Filing away loose pieces of paper, and using computer systems to electronically organise files is not going to work. There are only so many folders and documents you can store before it gets too chaotic, especially for a growing business. So you suddenly require a database, and enter this alien world that you don’t understand. Which is why it’s best left to an expert. They can advise you what database will work for you, such as this oracle database compare, and support you with it along the way. It takes specialist companies who dedicate their time to data management to actually control the database and utilise it. A company can easily use the database to process and understand customer data, for example, which can then allow sales to be manipulated.
Better Social Media Management
Social media management is key to a small business. It’s usually the marketing technique of choice for a startup, and sometimes we see such poor management of it. Social media management should be daily. You should be taking time each hour to interact with customers, post to your social media pages, and gain a following. The world is revolving around social media at the minute, so it’s the perfect place to attract the right attention. It’s not something that’s going to happen in a week or two, it’s something that’s going to happen over the course of many months. Building a following takes knowing algorithms, customer interests, and the best way to make posts look eye catching.
Improve Your Customer Relationships
Customer relationships are hard to maintain. Once you get on a path of creating problems with a few, the bad reviews come flooding in, and your company suffers because of it. So, to improve customer relationships, you need to focus on building rapport beforehand. Customers need to know that you’re interested in something other than a sale. If all you’re talking is numbers and products or services, you’ll fail to build solid relationships. If you learn about their lives and take an interest, they become long term customers. It’s simply what’s needed to build basic human relationships, let alone a customer to business one. Loyal customers are the backbone of a growing business.
Make Your Business Look and Feel More Professional at Any Time
When you open up your business, that is only the beginning. From then on, you’ll be continually working to improve your company and push it to new heights, as well as maintaining an appearance that is presentable.
How people look at you and your company is crucial to its success. If all that the public sees is a kid running a store, it will be hard for you to make any progress. Instead, attractively present yourself and your company, and you’ll gain the much-needed respect you need.
Take a look at the following five tips to help you make your new company look and feel more professional.
Invest in Your Location
Where you conduct business will speak volumes. The location should reflect what your business is about. If you are planning to dominate a specific field and be the leader in the industry, you’ll want to have an office location that is powerful. If you have clients coming over and you’re in your parent’s basement, it will be hard to gain any respect.
When you walk by skyscrapers downtown, it’s hard not to think anything less than authoritative about them. The COMMECIALCafé study on skyscrapers shows how they’ve changed over the years. Your business location will help you feel more professional.
Create a Business Website
Every business should have a website. With the internet running the world, people are likely to check out your business’s online profile before physically going to them. If you have no website or a childish looking one, then the public won’t have a very professional opinion about you. Invest in a site that professionally reflects your company to help draw people in.
Keep Your Home Separate
It’s tempting to make your personal cell number and home address the same for your business. It’s cheaper for one, and you can keep everything together. However, you should avoid this at all costs.
A quick way to lose respect in the business world is by not having a separate business phone number and mailing address. It can also get quite confusing when have calls coming in. The last thing you want is for a customer to hear your embarrassing voicemail greeting, or for you to answer the phone thinking it is one of your friends.
Have a Business Email
Similar to having a separate phone number and mailing address, you also want to have a separate business email. If you’re still using an email you created in high school, how professional will that look when you’re handing it out to clients and potential business partners?
Instead, invest in a separate email account that is connected only to your business. It will help you stay organized, and it will add to how professional your business looks.
Get Business Cards
One of the easiest ways to look professional is by having business cards. The small piece of hard paper will go a long way for you. A business card is an excellent advertising tool that can spread your business name very quickly. Plus, when you hand someone a business card rather than scribbling on a scrap piece of paper, you’ll instantly look more professional.
If you would want to build your own company, what would you need?
First of all you should have an idea. The next step, I guess, would be to have a business plan. That’s more or less an estimation of what your idea is going to cost you and studying all the laws you have to obey to be able to pursue your idea. Then you are going to need investors. I think that is the hardest part. You have to convince them that you have a good enough product to give money to, but not so good, that they want to take it away from you. And that, my friends, is a very delicate line to balance.
But let’s say your dreams come true, and somebody gives you money…. Now we have an obligation to a third party. You don’t want to let that person down, that is trusting in you. The conscience comes into play. But you are hopeful, you have a good idea, and you are going to do your best to achieve it.
So now you have to look for a location. A place that can fit your idea, it’s possible expansion in the next couple of years, the right location and a cheap price. All of this should be in the business plan, as well as future customers and maybe some other stuff that is important to the idea.
Location is an aspect, that is often ignored by the general public, because they think: If I see it, everybody else can see it too. But that is not necessarily always true. We all have mediocre ideas: “they should put an ice-cream store in that corner”, “if I could, I would open a company that sells things online”, “maybe I should start a food-truck”. But please remember: who is going to be your customer? What makes that corner so special for the an ice-cream store? Why will people buy from you online? Do you really cook well enough that somebody will buy your food out of a truck?
College students may tend to observe the tendencies of technology and decide to spend a great amount of money in something like electrospinning equipment and try to be ahead of the industrial need. This is a good idea, but you have to know who you are going to sell to, what the market value is for the quality of your product, in which country, city and street you are going to make the most sales and how you can make people notice you.
Then again, your idea doesn’t have to be a business idea. It can be more abstract: “ I want to change the name of my street”, “I think smoking has been criticised enough”, or maybe something like “I wish I could send all my leftovers to a third world country”. Those dreams are a little more difficult to follow. But the plan starts in the same way: Make an estimate, what it is going to cost you and study all the laws you have to obey to make your idea reality.
Now the first thing people will turn to is the internet. What can I find online, that will tell me how the state of the market is. My guess would be: nothing. Nobody really advertises their needs and advantages online. They do it in person. And you can’t look up the laws online, at least not for free. So then where do you go?
You look for the person who is most related to the subject, and you start to ask questions. This person may or may not want to hear You, but your ideas will certainly be heard. And then comes the question: is it more important to achieve your goal and let somebody else take the credit for it, or do you fear that the person who is listening to you is going to use your idea to achieve his own means, even if it is against what your idea originally stood for.
But then again, have the peace of mind that no one can ever be trusted. We are all humans, we all fail, disappoint and make promises we don’t know how to keep. But to be honest, If we don’t try to pursue our ideas, how can the world ever get better? How can we, the human race, ever take the role as the dominant species on this planet, if we know that our current state of industry is only killing other species and exploiting the planet we live on. Hopefully somebody has a dream, that will allow us to live in balance with the rest of nature.
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